May 26, 2013

Take your pick - state campgrounds offer variety

In the past year I’ve been in almost all the North Country campgrounds. It’s almost summer and time to plan some overnights.

As new additions to public lands keep expanding the Forest Preserve, state parks and campgrounds that provide access to wild experiences are still incredible resources.

Many hardcore campers look down on state campgrounds as being too suburban — too soft and too crowded compared to the rugged mountains and rivers in the backcountry.

But the herons and otters and owls and lake salmon that I’ve seen this year are definitely just as wild as their counterparts in other parts of the Forest Preserve.

Memorial Day weekend is the opening weekend for most state campgrounds and historic sites. Within an hour’s drive, there are hundreds of sites for primitive camping, car camping and recreational vehicles. There are even lean-tos in some campgrounds. Since the 1920s, families have turned vacations at state campgrounds into historic campfires, uproarious adventures (and misadventures) and long-lasting memories.

The North Country has thousands of campsites that can be reserved for between $15 and $25 a night. Some campsites fall under the Department of Environmental Conservation and others under the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.

An interactive online guide makes locating and reserving a campsite easy. Each campground listed provides a map of the layout so it’s easy to select sites to suit your expedition — whether it’s a solo overnight to position for an early launch or a group of families planning a weekend with bicycle rides and a volleyball tournament.

Campgrounds can reduce logistical planning and extravagant gear. For families working out the bugs in their outing routine, a car camping experience can hone the checklist of items needed — and not needed — for a trip farther into the backcountry.

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